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So tonight, after celebrating Carolyn Crain's birthday, it was interesting to have a truly frank conversation. It always surprises me with how personal people think things are. As much as I hate to admit it, I think like an engineer - I'm very analytical, and if someone criticizes me w/o emotion, then I'll recognize it as constructive. (If they start yelling at me irrationally, I'll attach much less value to it.) When someone says stuff to me, and can be totally frank with me, I love it. It's good feedback, and I'm not going to take it personally . . . it's stuff to ponder like I'm doing now.

Tonight I got that kind of feedback. To be honest, most of it wasn't new, and it's been the kind of stuff I've been worried about since I've been here. I know I've done a great job in the office, taking care of all the stuff that needs to be done, but, like a typical engineer, my weakest area is the people skill. While I want to be an advocate or an ombudsman for my VISTAs, I definitely struggle with establishing that relationship that makes people comfortable enough to want to call or email me. In fact, I've had that conversation numerous times, talking about how I wish more people would turn to me when they're struggling, that they'd see me as that resource. Granted, distance makes that hard to do, and I don't want to be best friends with everyone, I just want them to see me as someone they can turn to. The question becomes how do you establish that rapport?

The other primary issue raised was my negativity/pessimism. Again, I excel in the office, making records, recognizing how things work in the field, and responding to the needs of my people (both VISTAs and supervisors), but it's all the pre-emptive stuff, the kind of little details that go on behind the scenes that people don't realize is happening. The negativity comes through because I am cynical about things - though I love it when things work, I'm definitely a critical thinker who sees the issues ahead of time. I still don't believe that makes me a pessimist, just someone who wants everything to work. I honestly believe good planning is the key, and feel that too many non-profits and their projects fail because they don't have a true plan. But, my questioning things often leads to people thinking I'm a pessimist. Not to mention, I have no problem pissing people off if I believe I'm right. If I think I'm right I'll say what I believe - which ends up screwing me over sometimes when people decide to play politics, but that's a price I've been willing to pay.

So, like I said, both my approachability or attitude are things that I've been thinking about since I've been here. The question becomes how do I change things - part of me thinks the new class that I recruit will change things, since I'll have established relations with them much earlier, and having recruited them, they'll see me as a resource. It was mentioned to me that some of my January VISTAs (who I haven't had a chance to really meet) are turning to other resources - on one hand I praise them for this; it's good that they're being pro-active. On the other hand, ideally they should see me as the resource. I'm not sure if this late in the game I can change any of that. They have people who they feel are resources, and they're turning to them . . . is it appropriate for me to step in to try and change that situation because they really should be coming to me?

During this conversation, the issue of how one takes things if one person says it to you, or if multiple say it to you was raised. I was pointing out how if it's only one, even if they say they're speaking for a group, it's hard to attach value to it. Is that one person speaking for two? For five? For a dozen? It's hard to say, and there's no real way of knowing. In my mind, I would much rather have each individual state their concerns, because then you have true value, it's not just some smoothed over "everyone feels this way" type deal. Again, you don't know who everyone is. Of course, this is something I struggle with as well . . . I'm not a confrontational person . . . to me it's the end result that matters, and the process isn't so important. Machiavelli would be proud . . . but that's exactly why I struggle with those personal relationships mentioned above.

Bleh, talk about disjointed thoughts . . . I feel sort of like this girl that was doing poetry last week, who just rambled on and on in a stream of concious type deal . . . which I guess is one purpose of journaling - to solidify all your thoughts. Oh well . . . off to bed . . .

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